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Volunteer Plain Talk

Author: Meridian Swift

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Designed for today's leaders of volunteers, Volunteer Plain Talk's Meridian Swift discusses trends and best practices in volunteer engagement and impact. Guests, who come from all sectors and all parts of the world, share innovative ideas and tips for engaging today's volunteers and defining volunteer impact.
17 Episodes
In part 1, Paul discusses how he began his journey to designate volunteers as essential workers. Paul shares how he became a champion for volunteers in nursing homes through a nonprofit he built from the ground up. Paul discusses the importance of team, volunteer education and training, skin in the game, and navigating volunteer management challenges. In the next episode, he discusses his ambitious plan to designate volunteers as essential workers. Dr. Paul Falkowski is dedicated to serving the people who live and work in long-term care communities. Paul has a bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Music and a Master’s degree in Gerontology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and went on to earn a doctorate in Gerontology also from the University of Nebraska.  He was first attracted to the field of aging through his volunteering in nursing homes providing musical entertainment. In 1993, he formed a nonprofit that recruited and trained some 700 volunteers for Omaha and Lincoln nursing homes over 26 years. In 2003, he contacted the Department of Gerontology at the UNO and was encouraged to pursue a Gerontology graduate certificate.  Eighteen years later, he teaches online courses for the Department of Gerontology, conducting research and consulting with nursing homes. He recently developed the course “Volunteer Management and Aging Services” and is working on publishing a study in which he connects volunteerism in long-term care and the nursing home’s quality of care measures. Also, he authored “Creating the Volun-Cheer Force: Rethinking the way we use volunteers in nursing homes” and formed VolunCheerLeader LLC to provide support to nursing home managers of volunteers. His passion for volunteerism and improving the care of older adults is unwavering.VolunCheerLeader website:
Do we assume that engaging kids 9-12 is too much effort for the return on our investment? Are we missing an untapped volunteer potential? In this episode, Summer Neiss, student coordinator for the K Kids program at Mabel Rush Elementary school shares the passions, motivations, and untapped potential of youth volunteers. Summer discusses the upsides such as attracting the kids' parents or guardians, thinking out of the box and cultivating future volunteers. Points she shares are:Kids are natural helpers from toddler on.Kids who volunteer are highly motivated.Just like adult volunteers, kids are sustained by impact.Kids are socially motivated.Today's kids are aware of the world.Kids have big ideas and love to brainstorm.Summer also shares her thoughts on bettering volunteer programs for kids such as:Where to find organizations to partner with.Why conversations about volunteer partnering are necessary.How kids' parents or guardians would get involved.How little things can make big impact.How community good will is involved. For more information on K Kids visit:  
In this episode, Laura Rundell chats about resilience, a timely topic during the Covid pandemic: Laura shares her experiences on these subjects:What exactly is resilience?The filled up cope-o-meterExamples of resilient volunteersWhat resilience is notVolunteer motivationDo we confuse volunteers not being resilient with not being heard?What does individual motivation have to do with resilience?What goes on in a volunteer's life may determine resilienceHow do leaders of volunteers advocate for themselves? Describe themselves?Drawing the line as a professionThe ripple effect we may never seeAdvice for new leaders of volunteers  Laura Rundell has been in the field of Volunteer Engagement for over 20 years, working at organizations of varied sizes and missions. She has worked at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA; LifeBridge Community Services in Bridgeport, CT, and currently works for the Friends Program in Concord, NH. She received her CVA in 2013, has led workshops on performance reviews for volunteers, and written guest blogs for 20 Hats and Volunteerplaintalk.She received her BA in political science from Earlham College and her MA in History from Northeastern University. You can find Laura at Linkedin:
In this episode, January 2021, Brittany McGarry shares her thoughts and suggestions for:Where do we go from 2020?How are volunteer managers viewed?How to engage volunteers quickly.How forced opportunities can help us navigate the future.How a simple coffee hour changed everything.What volunteers really want.What volunteer retention is built upon.Why complicated does not mean better.How to use surveys to your advantage.Why we shouldn't provide quick volunteer assignments.How volunteer journey mapping takes patience. How elevating volunteers means letting go (in a good way).Brittany McGarry is a Volunteer Engagement Specialist with the National MS Society. With a background in Higher Education and her passion for volunteering, she stumbled into nonprofit work and found the perfect niche in this field. She serves as a Board Member with DOVIA Colorado and the Event Chair for the Colorado Conference on Volunteerism. She welcomes connections, brainstorming and opportunities and can be reached at 
In this episode, Elisa Kosarin, CVA shares her insights on:strategic planning and how fun fits inhow volunteer managers should aspire to move up into senior managementachieving buy-in and the seven kinds of powerthe future of virtual volunteeringhow volunteer managers are embracing and adapting traditional roles to virtualhow new looks at virtual roles may create more inclusion and diversityhow doing uncomfortable things makes you growwork/life balanceleadership, vision and creativitythe first step to achieving your visionAbout Elisa:Elisa Kosarin, CVA, helps nonprofits deliver fully on their missions by strengthening their volunteer programs. Her work is driven by the conviction that volunteers who are supported and valued have the potential to transform their communities.Elisa consults, coaches, and trains on volunteer management best practices.  She blogs regularly on her Twenty Hats website, exploring the skills and practices that leaders of volunteers seek to build confidence elevate their programs.Elisa's blog on strategic planning at CASA: 
In this episode, Corina Sadler shares her thoughts on volunteer managers' personal and professional development. Listen in as Corina talks about:Looking outside the box for training to skillsetDeveloping a professional storyUsing social media to recruit by not recruitingCreating your own contentWhy professional volunteer manager organizations are vitalSteps to creating a niche volunteer manager peer groupAbout Corina: Corina Sadler, CVA, is Volunteer Resources Supervisor for the City of Plano, Texas “Volunteers in Plano” department and she has spent 15 years in local government. Corina and her team support staff in engaging 10,000 volunteers a year. In 2019 she received a national IMPACT Award from the Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (AL!VE) for displaying exemplary leadership in the field. She is a committee member of Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration, e-Volunteerism, AL!VE and the Texas Volunteer Management Conference. Ms. Sadler holds a Bachelor's Degree in Gerontology and Nonprofit Management along with certificates in nonprofit marketing and governance.   Interested in training with Corina? You can catch her September 29 with NOVAA and October 2 at the Colorado Conference on Volunteerism. Where will she be next? Connect with Corina on LinkedIn [] or Instagram @CorinaInPlano to keep in touch. She hopes to see a bit of YOUR volunteer engagement story online.
In this episode, Samantha and Sydney talk about starting their own organization and share their insights on:making volunteering social through packing parties innovative ways to procure in-kind donationshow to use meaningful stats verses volunteer hoursusing social media effectivelythe importance of testimonialsutilizing networking using gamification to get the word outhow students’ view of volunteering has drastically changedhow students view leadership without “adults” in chargehow students view social responsibilitywhy creativity is critical to engaging students and the future of volunteeringPlease see Balance Boxes for more information and to donate: Samantha and Sydney:Samantha Feinberg started Balance Boxes when she was a Sophomore at Deerfield High School (2020). She is very passionate about Balance Boxes and helping underserved children. Samantha explained that, “Sydney and I, developed this idea when the COVID-19 outbreak began. We were looking for a way to help youth in need and we had the time to brainstorm. We believed that Balance Boxes would benefit a plethora of children, both academically and socially.” Beyond Balance Boxes Samantha is involved in, Student Congress (Domestic Bills Research Captain), Human Rights Club, Model United Nations, Teens Stand Against Trafficking (Ambassador and Founder of IL chapter), The North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic Student Board (Founding Member and Event Chair), The Holocaust Teen Executive Committee-USHMM (Secretary), The IL Holocaust Memorial Museum Teen Board, Deerfield High School’s Israel Club, DECA, JUF's Voices, Learn2Be Mathematics Tutor, Deerfield High School Genocide Commemoration Planning Day Committee, and Voters of Tomorrow (Legislative Outreach Coordinator). Samantha stated, “I am so excited to see the direction Balance Boxes takes me and how it makes a difference in many lives.”Sydney Holubow started Balance Boxes when she was a Junior at Deerfield High School (2020). She decided to become a founder of Balance Boxes because she felt a strong passion for giving back to the community. and people around her. Sydney said, “I lived in Chicago when I was younger and the wage gap is very apparent. Samantha and I strongly believe in giving children equal opportunities and we feel that Balance Boxes is a great way to give underprivileged children a great start.” Sydney Holubow is very passionate about STEM and has been on the planning committee of GirlCon Chicago for two years. GirlCon is a one-day tech conference created FOR high school girls in tech BY high school girls. Sydney is also am an advocate feminist. She started a local chapter of Girl Up at her school, uniting girls to change the world. Additionally, she does many other clubs at her school. Sydney is super excited to put her energy into Balance Boxes
Listen in as Dr. Corinne Devin, Navy officer, accomplished leader and passionate volunteer speaks about her experience volunteering overseas and gives timely tips for elevating volunteer manager leadership. In this episode, Corinne chats about:·       The challenge in stepping outside our comfort zones·       How volunteers can help other volunteers with real time advice·       How volunteer mentors help the organization·       Why listening to criticism is important·       Why shifting communication styles depends on your audience·       What to focus on when you can’t control circumstances·       How options work when having difficult conversations·       How to speak up the chain of command and advocate·       The need for strength in numbers·       Discovering new outreach avenues through a volunteer’s interests and passionsCorinne is an doctor, an officer, and a beauty queen. Specifically an orthodontist, Commander, and 2020 International Ms. Corinne says, "My father, also a dentist, inspired my love of service and teeth, and I followed his footsteps becoming a Navy officer- a heritage that goes back to the Revolutionary War and earned me a Daughters of the American Revolution college scholarship. While I continue my service as a Navy orthodontist based off-base, I have a passion for working with civilian kids and their moms. Whenever I can, I moonlight in private practices, using my strengths as a compassionate communicator (with a confidently feminine charm) to help improve the self-esteem of my patients, one orthodontic procedure at a time. I have lived in and visited over 50 countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, including my deployment with the United States Navy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to Al Asad, Iraq where I took care of the smiles of over 25,000 active duty, contractors and Iraqi security forces.After practicing for three years as a general dentist, I was selected to attend the elite Tri-Service Orthodontics Residency Program at Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. While in residency I competed and won the title Ms. Texas, then after graduating won Ms. United States 2012, and internationally won Ms. Galaxy 2014, Ms Earth 2018, and International Ms. 2020.  The titles allowed me the opportunity get involved with local communities, speaking at events including elementary schools where I mentored young girls and showed them that they can be and do anything- from beauty queen to Navy officer to orthodontist. I continued to balance my two passions, serving as the keynote speaker at the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) Conference to over 1,000 middle school girls for the Department of Defense in Japan."Thank you Corinne, for sharing your experiences, both as a volunteer and as an accomplished leader. If you wish to get in touch with Corinne, her contact information is: Official Facebook page: @drcorinnedevinYoutube: Dr. Corinne DevinLinkedin: Corinne DevinEmail: The organizations (for volunteering overseas) Corinne mentioned are:Smart Traveler Enrollment Program: Solutions:  
Jaylen Christie, the Director of Public Relations for Moxē, an integrated marketing agency in Orlando and former volunteer manager, chats about: volunteer contingency plans volunteer impact volunteer ROI showing impact to volunteers who don't work directly with clientsfamilies and groups that volunteer togetherPR for volunteer managersstrategies for PR (R.P.I.E.)bland volunteer recruitment adscompetitionintegrated convergenceleadershipJaylen serves on several local boards including the Orange County Friends of the Library board, the United Negro College Fund and the Public Relations Society of America. He is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American men and known for giving back to the community. You can follow Jaylen on Instagram: or on Facebook:
Volunteer vigilante? Balderdash? In this episode, Adam Janes, CVA shares his thoughts on volunteer management during the Covid 19 pandemic. Adam discusses care mongerers, changes in policies, virtual volunteer roles, how to help volunteers utilize video, and what comes next for the volunteer management sector. Adam highlights the "what we can do now" mantra, even during volunteer appreciation week. Adam also shares how he will adopt some changes going forward. About Adam: Adam is an up and coming leader of Volunteers and a community advocate for all things volunteering. He currently leads the Volunteer Program at Christie Lake Kids, a local charity that helps at-risk youth and children. Adam is currently on the Ottawa Administrators of Volunteer Resources Board as the Membership Coordinator He is a member of the Beyond the Bake Sale, a platform that looks to innovate and celebrate how people invest their time, talent and treasure for the causes they care about. www.btbs.caAdam is an up and coming writer and workshop facilitator taking on assignments at a local and provincial level.When he is not engaging volunteers, Adam is happy to be called Daddy and is married to a wonderful wife.Find Adam at: check out the awesome work at Christie Lake Kids' Facebook page:
In this special episode of Volunteer Plain Talk Podcast, Rob Jackson of Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd. located in the UK, and Meridian chat about coping, challenges and opportunities in uncertain times. Rob offers his thoughts and advice including:·      “There’s a moment here,” for thought leadership·       Connecting and venting vs. isolation·       Readying our profession for what’s next·       Miss Piggy’s quote ·       The abundance of information volunteer managers will have to share with one another when this is over·       Harnessing the community spirit and can we compare this to an alien invasion movie?·       Finding comfort·       The good that can come from tough times·       Resources-we are not alone You can connect with Rob by emailing him at or by visiting his website: is an abundance of resources for volunteer managers on these websites:
Bo Goliber, who heads up philanthropy at Fingerpaint, a health and wellness marketing agency, shares the keys to a successful relationship between nonprofits and corporate partners. Bo assures us that corporate partners do not want to overwhelm volunteer agencies, but instead, are looking for long-term relationships built on honesty. Bo says, “don’t be afraid,” when companies reach out for a volunteering opportunity. Authentic partnerships through volunteering can yield other benefits. Fingerpaint was named 2019 Agency of the Year by Med Ad News, and in 2018, it won the Heart Award from Med Ad News for its commitment to philanthropy and social causes. Additionally, it has been on Inc. Magazine’s list of the 5,000 Fastest-Growing Companies for the past seven years. Founder Ed Mitzen was honored as 2016’s Industry Person of the Year by Med Ad News.Please view these recent articles on Fingerpaint’s philanthropy and culture:Why volunteering is essential to employee engagement: titles: Fingerpaint on Twitter and Instragram: @fingerpainters
Helping to create a positive culture of volunteering in many organisations can be tough work for leaders of volunteer engagement.  How do you ensure that volunteers feel valued by everyone, from the CEO and board down to the front-line staff? How do you have an impact on strengthening the value and impact of volunteerism when you, as a leader, already feel invisible or unheard?Tracey O’Neill, Manager of Volunteer Engagement at Austin Health in Melbourne, Australia discusses the strategies she has employed to strengthen the culture and buy-in for volunteering across her large health service.  From the small-scale, easy things she did as a nervous newcomer, to the more bold and brave approaches she has harnessed in recent years as she has gained skills, knowledge, confidence, support and credibility.Tracey is a passionate advocate for the strategic engagement of volunteers and for professionalizing volunteer management because she believes volunteers change the world, and sustainable effective volunteering happens when supported by skilled leaders of volunteer engagement. Listen to Tracey speak further on advocacy in volunteer leadership in this Volunteering Victoria webinar alongside volunteer engagement colleague, Ang Cuy, Active Executive Director Youth Services, YMCA Victoria and Volunteering Victoria Sector Development Manager, Sara Sterling, by registering here.  You can find links to other Volunteering Victoria webinars for leaders of volunteer engagement here.Read Tracey’s blog, Volunteer Village, here.  Volunteer Village is a place for leaders of volunteer engagement across the globe to share our stories about the impact of volunteers, the vital nature of our roles and why our organisations, governments and communities should support and resource effective and transformative volunteer management.Find Shawn Callahan and Mark Schenk’s podcast, Anecdotally Speaking, here, where they share business stories and talk about why it works and where you might tell it at work.  Get some great ideas for how you can grow your story bank.Tracey can be contacted at or, or at her LinkedIn page;
How do you evolve your volunteer program for the volunteers of tomorrow whilst meeting the needs of your volunteers today? Sam Clift, Volunteer Resource Manager at London Transport Museum talks through achieving senior management buy-in, involving volunteers in strategy planning, getting volunteers on board with organisational change and using technology and volunteer support to make volunteering more accessible and inclusive. Sam can be contacted at or alternatively at his LinkedIn page: I learned from Sam:Court senior manager buy-in by chiming with their priorities. Keep volunteer value continuously in view.Technology can be embraced by volunteers.One change can create looking at other ways to change and grow.Use incentives to make changes more palatable.Involve volunteers in strategic roles.Be honest about limitations.Elevate volunteers to mentor roles.Find new ways to embrace inclusion.Meet challenges head-on.
Dr. Jesse Bolinger, author of the new book, "Calling All Volunteers," shares his research into volunteering and the future of volunteer management. He adds mental health, work and education to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, calls on us to change the way we recruit volunteers and urges us to use the mental health benefits of volunteering for the good of our communities. Dr. Bolinger's latest project delves into conversations with organizational senior management so that volunteering is recognized as a key strategy for an organization's success. Dr. Bolinger can be reached at 
What happens when a volunteer leaves an organization to create an advocacy group? In this episode, Elizabeth Robinson, founder of Community Cats of Palm Coast talks about her journey into advocacy and teaches us why passionate volunteers are our most valuable resource. Elizabeth dispels the myth that we must work in silos and shows us that volunteers are partners in achieving mission goals. 
In this episode, Mark and Meridian discuss staff buy-in, advice for new volunteer managers, working with challenging volunteers, burnout, credentialing and volunteers with dementia. Mark offers an innovative way to show volunteer value and a great way to transform retiring volunteers into organization advocates. 
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